Ehud Barak told Wolf Blitzer some eye-opening things about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Though many of Barak’s statements contradicted each other, the gist was that he conceded that Iran’s Ayatallolah Khamenei had not ordered his scientists to create a nuclear weapon. This statement goes way off the reservation of Bibi Netanyahu’s pronouncements which posit an Iran hell-bent on going nuclear at the earliest opportunity. Barak, on the other hand, acknowledges that for reasons of his own, the Supreme Leader has held off from giving the go-ahead for a weapon:
BARAK: We both know that Iran is determined to turn nuclear. We both know that Khamenei did not yet ordered, actually, to give a weapon, but that he is determined to deceit and defy the whole world.
…BLITZER: What — what does that mean, that the ayatollah has not given the order to build a nuclear bomb?
BARAK: It’s something technical. He did not tell his people start and build it — a weapon on — an explodable device. We think that we understand why he — the — he does not give this order.
He believes that he is penetrated through our intelligence and he strongly feels that if he tries to order, we will know it, we and you and some other intelligence services will know about it and it might end up with a physical action against it.
So he prefers to, first of all, make sure that through redundancy, through an accumulation of more lowly enriched uranium, more medium level enriched uranium and more centrifuges and more sites, better protection, that he can reach a point, which I call the zone of immunity, beyond which Israel might not be technically capable of launching a surgical operation. The United States can do more.
And by then, he will have to consider when and how to — to go into — into building it.
What’s interesting about this is that the Obama administration has clearly laid out its red lines concerning Iran and the major one is that Iran must take direct steps to produce a nuclear weapon. According to this, what Barak outlines above will not have crossed those red lines and there would be no grounds for a U.S. attack.
Israel, of course, takes a different view and its red line will shortly be crossed: Iran must not be allowed to create even the components of a nuclear weapon, including the enriched uranium that would fuel it. So as far as Barak is concerned, Iran’s failure to move to create an actual weapon is a mere legalism. For the Americans, it’s quite another story.
It’s important to note that Japan is another country that acted precisely as the Iranians have. It too has the components necessary to produce a weapon on short notice should it face a devastating attack by a nearby state like North Korea or China. But you don’t hear much about Japan as a nuclear power, which is the way it would prefer things. Such deliberate opacity suits the delicate relations Japan has with its much more powerful neighbor, China.
The question must be asked: what makes Japan different from Iran, other than that the latter is a U.S. ally and Iran is an enemy? We can see one set of standards applicable to friends and quite another for our enemies. But the fact is that there is no difference between the Japanese and Iranian approaches to nuclearization.
Further, the Israeli party line is that the Iranians are hell-bent on creating a nuclear weapon, going full-speed ahead towards that goal. There is no nuance in Bibi’s position as there is in Barak’s. In that sense, there is a clear distance between the two which is unusual for them on this issue. They’re usually like the Bobsey Twins when it comes to Iran.
Barak Ravid, Haaretz’s IDF-intelligence stenographer, has published yet another wild-eyed, unsubstantiated report that Iran is rapidly advancing toward its nuclear goal. As you read the story, note a few things: one, that his primary source is an unnamed “western diplomat” who refuses to be named because he’s “not authorized to discuss intelligence information.” Why do you suppose he might not have such authorization? Perhaps because he’s not an intelligence source? Or because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about? At any rate, whoever he is, he doesn’t instill supreme confidence as a reliable source.
Here’s the extent of the scoop…are you ready?
Iran has made greater progress on developing components for its nuclear weapons program than the West had previously realized…
How much progress and on what components? Don’t know. Ravid won’t tell you either because he likely doesn’t know. What’s the basis for this overall assessment? Because Iran refused to allow UN nuclear inspectors to visit Parchin. That’s it. There could’ve been a thousand reasons the Iranians refused. But Ravid and his source have decided there’s only one: that Iran is on the verge of nuclearization. Excuse me, but if you want to goad Israel and the world into a war you’re going to have to offer better evidence than this.
But wait, perhaps we’re being too hard on poor Ravid. After all, he has more: the Daily Telegraph (known among progressive Brits as the “Torygraph”) told us recently that the Revolutionary Guards created a new nuclear research facility staffed by 60 nuclear scientists. They were a “weapons group” preparing for nuclear detonators and warheads. Who offered the Telegraph this info? The MEK! A more trustworthy source the world has never seen. Unless of course you’re talking about Debka, which is certainly even more reliable.
Ravid tells us that Bibi Netanyahu told his presidential crush, Mitt Romney, during the latter’s last visit that an attack on Iran would likely topple the regime just as the Israeli raid on Entebbe did to Idi Amin:
“Ugandan President Museveni told me [Bibi] the Entebbe raid was a turning point in the effort to topple Idi Amin,” the Israeli official quoted Netanyahu as saying. “He said the operation strengthened Amin’s rivals because it revealed how vulnerable his regime was.”
Museveni made the comments when Netanyahu visited Uganda in 2005 to dedicate a memorial for his brother Yoni Netanyahu, the commander who was killed while rescuing 100 hostages from pro-Palestinian hijackers at Entebbe airport in Uganda, the official said.
Now, I’ve heard of scores of reasons that Amin was overthrown, but I’ve never heard of the raid as one of them. Seems to me that Bibi is confusing fawning flattery with genuine analysis. Bibi’s theories in this case strike me as no more credible than theories that the United Nations is intent on world domination or that the Mossad was behind the 9/11 attacks.
At any rate, the only way the theory could be borne out in the Iranian case is if there were Iranian rebels like Musseveni who were prepared and equipped to launch a civil war against the current regime. This is so unlikely that we can easily label is mere fantasy.
After the Sinai terror attack yesterday which killed 16 Egyptian border police and successfully penetrated Israel’s border with Gaza, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren tweeted that the Iranians were responsible. It seemed of a piece with the Netanyahu propaganda machine which blames every scandal and catastrophe in the world on the mullahs. The only problem? Not even the Israeli army backed him. In fact, it said the attackers had no connection to Iran and were local Bedouin affiliated with “global jihad” (whatever that is).
Oren deleted the original tweet blaming Iran and has now gotten with the hasbara program. His current tweet blames global jihad for the dastardly act. Gee, you’d think these guys could get things straight. They are, after all, one of the most powerful nations in the Middle East, yet somehow they come across like the Keystone Kops or the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.
In his Teheran Bureau column, Prof. Muhammad Sahimi bears news of a book published in Iran by one of its leading novelists, Seyyed Mehdi Shojaei, which is harshly critical of Ayatollah Khamenei. This particular passage calls to mind precisely the same modus operandi of the current Israeli prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu:
A chapter called The Enemy Is a Useful Thing; If You Do Not Have One, Make One, criticizes Khamenei…and the role that “the enemy” has played during his rule. The book defines “enemy” as an entity “whom you can blame and fault for all of your mistakes and shortcomings…something that you can terrify the people with, so that they can take refuge with you…something that allows you to exaggerate what you have accomplished, and blame him if you have not.”
One important point I’ve made repeatedly in my coverage of this issue is that the leadership of the two countries are mirror images. Anyone who’s listened to any of Bibi’s speeches on this subject knows that Iran has becoming the favored whipping boy. Social justice movement getting too strong? Break out the big bogeyman, Iran. Sinai Islamists breach the Israeli border? Blame it on the Iranians. Tear your Achilles tendon…well, things haven’t gotten that bad (yet).